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Thomson v. Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center

Court of Appeals of Indiana

February 9, 2015

Jamie Thomson, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center and Michael Borkowski, M.D., Appellees-Defendants

Page 90

Appeal from the St. Joseph Circuit Court. The Honorable Michael G. Gotsch, Judge. Cause No. 71C01-1211-CT-215.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Douglas E. Sakaguchi, Jerome W. McKeever, Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak, South Bend, Indiana.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: SAINT JOSEPH REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, Robert J. Palmer, May Oberfell Lorber, Mishawaka, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: MICHAEL BORKOWSKI, M.D., Louis W. Voelker, Megan C. Brennan, Eichhorn & Eichhorn, LLP, Hammond, Indiana.

Baker, Judge. Vaidik, C.J., and Riley, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 91

Baker, Judge.

[¶ 1] Jamie Thomson appeals the entry of summary judgment in favor of defendants St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and Michael Borkowski. Thomson claims to have suffered an injury to the nerves in her shoulder and arm when a board supporting her arm became detached during surgery, leaving her arm dangling towards the floor for an unknown period of time. A medical review panel determined that neither defendant failed to meet the applicable standard of care and that neither defendants' actions were the proximate cause of Thomson's injury. We find that, given the nature of this case, Thomson was not required to present expert testimony to rebut the panel's conclusion as to either defendant's failure to meet the standard of care. We also find that the expert testimony Thomson presented was sufficient to rebut the panel's conclusion as to causation. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Facts

[¶ 2] On July 20, 2009, Thomson underwent a hysterectomy at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center (SJRMC) for which Michael Borkowski provided anesthesia. Thomson was lying on an operating table with her arms out from her side and her palms facing upwards. Her arms were supported by padded arm boards that had been attached to the table. Her arms were secured to these arm boards by a strap.

[¶ 3] The procedure lasted for approximately two hours, from 7:32 a.m. to 9:24 a.m. At approximately 8:30 a.m., Dr. Borkowski noticed that Thomson's right arm was dangling towards the floor because the right arm board had become detached. Dr. Borkowski did not know how or when the arm board had become detached. He reattached the arm board and noted the incident in his record.

[¶ 4] When she awoke from surgery, Thomson complained of pain in her right arm. Dr. Borkowski explained that her arm board had become detached during surgery and that this could have resulted in nerve damage to her arm. Thomson met with Dr. Zimmerman, a neurologist at SJRMC, who diagnosed her with a right

Page 92

radial nerve injury that had probably been caused by compression.

[¶ 5] Thomson had two follow-ups with Dr. Zimmerman, after which Dr. Zimmerman reported that Thomson was experiencing residual symptoms. About a month after these follow-ups, on September 17, 2009, Dr. Zimmerman ordered an electromyogram of Thomson's arm. The test came back indicating normal nerve structure and function. Thomson visited Dr. Zimmerman again on March 1, 2010, and reported loss of pin-prick sensation and temperature sensation in her right thumb. On August 31, 2010, Thomson had her final visit with Dr. Zimmerman, after which he told her that he had done everything he could.

[¶ 6] On April 15, 2011, Thomson filed a proposed complaint against SJRMC and Dr. Borkowski with the Indiana Department of Insurance. On May 14, 2012, the case went before a medical review panel consisting of three physicians. On July 9, 2012, all three members of the panel determined that neither defendant failed to meet the appropriate standard of care and that their conduct was not a significant factor in any permanent injury Thomson may have suffered.

[¶ 7] On November 27, 2012, Thomson filed a complaint in the trial court alleging that SJRMC and Dr. Borkowski failed to meet the appropriate standard of care, resulting in injuries to Thomson. SJRMC and Dr. Borkowski both filed motions for summary judgment, citing the opinion of the panel.

[¶ 8] In response, Thomson designated as evidence the deposition testimony of Dr. Zimmerman, an affidavit of registered nurse Abigail Stanley, and the deposition testimony of anesthesiologist Robert Gill, who had been a member of ...


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